Global Ethics Corner: The EU and Serbia

Nov 5, 2010

Would Serbian admission to the EU prevent another Balkan War? Is promoting Serbian democracy more important than securing justice for 1990s genocides? In pursuing war criminals, is the carrot of EU admission more effective than the stick of EU exclusion?

The decision to open the EU admission to Serbia raises many issues.

Commercially, EU membership is a great boon, and can increase prosperity. With membership, some EU subsidies are also available to Serbia. Travel and communication are markedly easier within the EU umbrella, and there is even an implicit security guarantee.

Inside Serbia, one dimension of domestic political tension is pro-European versus more nationalistic policies. Serbia is also not reconciled to the independence of its former province of Kosovo.

The EU would like to stabilize the Balkans, preventing future conflicts fueled by local ethnicity, nationalism, religion, atrocities, and recrimination. Hence, membership is a tool for controlling regional violence and moderating domestic Balkan politics.

Opposing membership, many argue that Serbia is ineffective in cooperating with war crimes investigations. A former Bosnian Serb general accused of orchestrating the mass murder of Muslims in 1995 remains in hiding. Hence, the opportunity for membership should depend on full and forceful prosecution of genocide.

Castle writes that the EU decision is "… the opening of a process that takes years. But it was an important symbolic moment for Serbia…." Symbolically, Serbia sheds its pariah status acquired in the 1990s' Balkan wars.

What do you think? Is Serbian admission to the EU the way to prevent another Balkan war? Is promoting Serbian democracy more important than securing justice for 1990s genocides? In pursuing war criminals, is the carrot of EU admission more effective than the stick of EU exclusion?

By William Vocke

For more information see:

Stephen Castle, "European Union Paves Way for Serbia, Despite Calls to Arrest War Crimes Suspect," The New York Times, October 26, 2010, A4.


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